Using Sticky Notes in Class to get a response from every student that is their own

I am planning a maths lesson for a small group of year 9 students with whom I work, once a week.  The group varies in size between 3 and 8.  It is usually quite easy for me to see if I have a response from everyone, but other times I have larger groups and this is a little harder.  One thing about working with a small group in a small classroom is that students find it very easy to share answers.  I’m happy for this to occur as long as students are sharing how they reached their answer too.  Sometimes, I want to check for understanding quickly and know that every student has done their own work.  This little idea came to me while I was planning an activity for my lesson this week.

Tell students to write their name on the FRONT of each sticky note you give them, answers are then written on the BACK.  This way, when students stick their sticky notes on a Poster/ Posted Question/ Card, everyone only sees the names of the students who have answered the question.  The teacher is the only one who will see the answers (and whether or not they are correct) at the end of the lesson.

variety of sticky notes

Have students use BOTH SIDES of their sticky note!

This week we will be revising Index Notation, so I have made A4 Cards to be posted around the room.  Each one has the population of a couscientific notation cards for blog
ntry on it.  The students will be required to write each population in Scientific Notation on the back of their sticky notes and stick them to the population card (see image to the right).  Some already have Scientific Notation so I will ask the students to expand those ones.  I will be able to tell quickly when everyone is done (when to move on) and later I can check answers to make sure they are correct.


I’m feeling really clever! I swear I didn’t read this idea on someone else’s blog!! Of course, I know I’m not the only one out there with great ideas. If you have a tried and tested trick for getting responses from everyone in your class, please share with me in the comments!  How do you make sure the correct answer isn’t being copied from the most competent student in the room?
I’m excited about this one because I know I can use it in Maths, English, Science, History… literally any subject!

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Reflecting on Grand Plans

I am about to enter into the final term of the 2015 school year and I can see quite a lot of work ahead of me.  Everything I can do (from home) to prepare for the coming week is already done so I’m feeling really pleased with myself.  I decided this was a good opportunity to take a look at my goals for this year (which I shared with you in this post).  Here is the excerpt that we really need to focus on.

3 habits I’m going to try and develop as a teacher in 2015.

  • Use the word “AND” instead of “BUT”… I know this will require some thought which might be difficult AND I will get used to it eventually.
  • Talk LESS in my classroom.  I will need to think about this too (when I plan, give instructions and reflect on my lessons).
  • Allow the people around me (and myself) time to breathe- to connect, process, think – AND relax.

How’s That Working For Me?

I would say that I have made some progress towards reaching all of the goals above, however I think it would be a good idea to go a little further into it and work out how I’m going to further develop these by the end of the year (which is approaching faster than a two year old child on a sugar high).

Using the word AND instead of BUT

I am getting better at this one but I need to work on it more.  Does that give you an idea of how it’s really going.  On the bright side, many of my colleagues have been attempting to replace BUT with AND so at least I have had support on this one.  The question here is if there is a better way (an action perhaps) that would help me do this better.  Some sort of gadget that buzzes or lights up every time I use the word “but” would certainly draw my attention to it more consistently.  Does that exist?


I am doing better at this in the classroom.  I have used more planning tools and visual aids in my lessons this year so I am naturally speaking less.  I am also tapping into non-verbal forms of feedback with my students e.g. thumbs up/ down, smile/ frown, a hand on the desk rather than a verbal reminder.  I noticed that the best of my colleagues use non-verbal communication almost without thinking.  I am simply becoming more conscious of the non-verbal communication I am using.

This has proven challenging at times because my students often feign ignorance and I have found that after repeating myself once, I have had to use different words (more words) to try and get the message across.  This is more of an issue when I am working with other teachers in their classrooms than when I am in my own classroom.

I am also finding that on occasion I get a case of verbal explosion when I have to just talk about everything and I can’t stop.  Fortunately, these little outbursts have happened in the staffroom or even at home.  While it might annoy some of my colleagues and my family, this outpouring of my surplus words is not interfering with my succinct teaching.  That’s Good.

Allow Time to Breathe

Allowing myself and my team members time to breathe has worked wonders.  Not only has the process of doing this has been easier than I thought, it has had an almost magical impact on my performance as a leader, as a team member and a teacher.  I’m a better teacher because I am well rested and have a balanced life.  Good for me!  My team is working brilliantly together too.  The members of my team are prepared to go above and beyond because I make it clear that I value their time and their energy.  I value them as people.  I know the people in my team have partners, families, community groups and lives outside of school and they know I have those things too.  We are human together which makes us better professionals together too.

A Final Thought and Questions for you!

It is good to have goals.  We set goals for our students all the time then we help them find their way.  Just as important as setting goals is having actions for working towards them and reflecting on the journey along the way and when you finally get there.  It feels good to see progress.  If you are just starting out in a new school year, what goals do you have for your teaching?  If, like me, the end is in sight, did you have goals for the year and how are you progressing?

Next time – no promises about when it will be-

I will share the performance development process that we have at our school.  Then: a series about my performance development goals and how I have worked towards them this year.

School this week will be great!  Believe it!

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CPD and Infographics: Quick Tips

Infographics are usually read quickly with relative ease.  They are multi-modal texts that include references to other material (such as research studies, text books, teachers) while summarizing a topic or key issue.

Whenever you see an infographic that is relevant to your CPD goals (or it catches your eye as something you might want to explore in the future), use your online/ social media tools to share or save it (I like to Pin it).  Once a week, devote 30 minutes to reviewing the infographics you have saved and use them as a stepping stone to build your knowledge or skills.  Here are some easy ways to use all the “info” that you now have in graphic form.


Choose a topic and collate all the saved info you have on the topic.  Either print or create a PDF you now have a ready reference (fact sheet) about a topic that you can easily share or simply keep for yourself.   You could leave this tip here, but it will also help to compare the infographics.  Decide how each one is related to the others.  Does one give you broad headings while another gives data?  Are these useful? What is the key message that these graphics tell you? How is the message presented in each one?  How are you positioned?  Do all of the sources agree? I like to use coloured pens, sticky notes and highlighters to do this step but you might prefer to create a new summary (on a note taking application) or draw a flow chart.  Collate the saved infographics and your notes as an extended fact sheet.  You might decide that you only want to keep 3 of the 6 infographics that you collected in the first place.  These pins show how one topic can be represented in different ways.



Choose one graphic and explore the issue/s more deeply.  Use the references at the bottom to do some further reading, Google the headings or use image search to find related articles online. Save these together with the image that got you started.  This pin gave me food for thought and prompted me to move beyond what I thought I knew about ADHD.


Choose one graphic to study and create a simple goal/ plan to implement in your teaching tomorrow (next week).  Example: Vocabulary Strategies Do this-Not that! has ten great things you could start doing in your classroom immediately to improve your vocabulary instruction.  You could choose one of them and implement it in your classroom three times (this will give it a real chance to work).  Share this with your Professional Learning Network (PLN) and ask for their feedback or suggestions.


Share one infographic with your PLN to spark a discussion.  Choose something that will give you opportunities to learn from them.  Example: Marzano’s 9 Effective Instructional Strategies provides an outline of these strategies, but you and your colleagues could all share a specific classroom activity that utilises one or more of the strategies.


Choose one or several infographics to be the foundation for a blog series or display in your classroom.  Use the infographics you have as mentor texts.  Create your own infographic about the topic you are currently teaching.  Ask your students to help you create an infographic that summarizes the current unit of study.  Here are some examples of infographics created for the classroom

 Does anyone else feel like an infographic is just a poster?!  I think that too sometimes.  Infographics tend to be online tools rather than a print text and they usually include multiple graphic forms such as symbols and graphs, a paragraph of text as well as a flow chart.  Call it what you will, the infographic is a new and dynamic text and as teachers we can use these as tools to enhance learning for our students and ourselves.

Happy Learning!

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Bulletin Board Creation: Lessons Learned Part #6

Lesson #6 Keep it Current

If you have a large insect on your bulletin board that is labelled and surrounded by bug reports, and the “mini-beasts” unit was last semester, it’s time for a change. Block colours help with this point too.

It is okay for boards to start bare and be added to as a teaching and learning unit progresses.  In fact, this is a good way to make sure your bulletin boards are up to date and referred to by students.  Word walls are a common example of this.

 Another way to keep things current is to make your boards generic. Five-Star Work would be a great board for students to show off what they have done in practically any unit theme. This board can stay the same all year round, but look different almost every week.  Some teachers purposely design their bulletin boards so that some elements are generic and will be static for the entire year.  They leave space for charts to be added, like in the pinned image below.

Some teachers choose to create one or two interactive boards which are almost constantly changing.  Here are some examples of interactive bulletin boards that are easy to set up at the beginning of the year and maintain (as a current and useful learning tool) throughout the year.

Most of the pins below show boards that ask students to respond or add to the board using post-it notes.  You can change the essential question weekly or daily if you like and this can provide valuable feedback about student learning or classroom climate.  One of the pins is year long – students can add names of books they have read or interesting words they find when reading (posted in the classroom so they can use them when they are writing).

Many teachers turn one of the bulletin boards in the room into a simple game. One example is a large boggle board- click here to find lots of resources and classroom examples of classroom Boggle on Pinterest.  The letters are randomly selected and posted at the beginning of each week.  If and when students finish early they can write down any words they find using the letters on the board.  The student with the most words at the end of the week can receive a small prize.  You can make the scoring more complicated by assigning points according to the length of the words.  Other simple games such hangman or who am I? could be used as well.  Riddles, guessing games or weekly challenges could also add an interactive component to your classroom walls.

WOW- Lots of Pins to check out in this post.  If you need ideas for bulletin boards in your classroom, you MUST visit Pinterest.  It is the best location for seeing what is possible in your classroom and learn about how other teachers (just like you and me) have used their bulletin boards to enhance student learning.

This post brings our series to a close.  Please comment if you have any lessons you have learned or ideas you want to share with us.  Feel free to use the comments form to ask any questions too.

Back to Work… you wouldn’t believe this, I actually have a bulletin board project I have to finish!

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